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    South Carolina Holds Off Ole Miss

    2011 SEC Women's Tournament
    Opening Round

    Game 3 -- #5 South Carolina 62, # 12 Ole Miss 50

    Final Stats
    Game Photos
    South Carolina Quotes
    Ole Miss Quotes
    Game Highlights

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. - South Carolina picked up its first SEC Women's Basketball Tournament win since 2007 with a 62-50 win over Ole Miss in first-round  action  at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night. Markeshia Grant and Ieasia Walker highlighted the box score with 13 and 15 points, respectively, to go with nine rebounds apiece. Jewel May matched their game-high rebounding effort with nine of her own, including six in the second half. Defensively, South Carolina (17-13) allowed Ole Miss (10-19) to shoot just 26.9 percent from the field, including just 1-of-20 accuracy from 3-point range.

    Locked  down  defense  and  efficient  offense  helped  the  Gamecocks  to  a  30-23  lead at the half. After Ole Miss opened with the game's first four points, South Carolina settled in for a 22-7 surge built on forcing contested shots and clearing the defensive glass. On the other side of the ball, Ieasia Walker got  the  offense  going  with  a  3-pointer  from  the  right  wing  and  added  a  free  throw  moments  later. Ashley Bruner rebounded Walker's missed free throw, and Courtney Newton buried a 3 from the left corner to put the Gamecocks up 7-4 four minutes into the contest. A defensive rebound led to a transition 3-pointer for Markeshia Grant, and Bruner made it a 12-4 advantage with a bucket as she was falling down.

    Ole Miss got a Valencia McFarland floater to fall to interrupt the Gamecocks' spurt, but Walker's transition layup got South Carolina back on track. After a Rebel free throw, Walker hit a pair from the charity stripe to stretch the lead to nine at 16-7. From there, the Gamecock frontcourt scored all but two of the remaining 14 points in the half. Charenee Stephens hit one from the left block off a feed from La'Keisha Sutton, and Jewel May netted a putback and a mid-range jumper from the left side of the lane. Bruner hit a based from the right block, and May buried another jumper as the lead hovered around nine points until Nikki Byrd closed the half with a bucket to bring the Rebels within seven at 30-23 at the break.

    In the second half, Ole Miss closed to 40-37 as Byrd found her way around the Gamecocks' interior defense and the Rebels gained better control of their offensive boards. After Newton's jumper from the left elbow had South Carolina up 40-32 with 13:48 to play, Byrd converted a pair of free throws and Kayla Melson swiped a steal. On the extra possession, the Rebels snagged a pair of offensive rebounds before Shae Nelson was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She hit just one of the three, but Kenyotta Jenkins reeled in the rebound and stuck it back to pull her team within three points.

    South Carolina redoubled its defensive and rebounding efforts, led in big part by Stephens' effort on Byrd, which allowed the Gamecock guards to pull down rebounds on both ends. Grant hit a free throw to start an 11-1 run, then skied above the forward for a defensive rebound on Melson's missed shot on the other end. Amid four free throws from Sutton and Walker, Stephens ran the court for a transition layup, and Grant added back-to-back layups, including one in transition off a Walker steal. The spurt gave the Gamecocks a 51-38 advantage with 7:25 to go, and they held by hitting free throws and snapping up defensive rebounds for the duration of the game.

    Walker and Sutton tied for game-high honors with three assists each, and May added eight points to her nine-rebound effort as three Gamecocks fell just shy of recording double-doubles. South Carolina shot 43.1 percent from the field, and the Gamecock bench accounted for 27 of the team's 62 points.

    2011 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament
    Game 3 – Thursday, March 3 – 6:30 p.m.
    #12 Ole Miss vs. #5 South Carolina

    OLE MISS NOTES

    •    Ole Miss is now 10-19 overall, 25-32 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
    •    This marks the first time since 2003 that Ole Miss has failed to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament.
    •    The Rebels close the season having lost their final eight games.
    •    Freshman guard Valencia McFarland led Ole Miss with 14 points for her 20th double-figure game, including eight consecutive to close out the season.
    •    Junior forward Nikki Byrd scored 13 points to join McFarland in double-figures.
    •    The Rebels leading rebounder was Kenyotta Jenkins with nine.
    •    Mississippi shot 26.9% from the field and was just 1-20 from three-point range.
    •    Ole Miss won the rebounding battle 45-43 and dominated the second-chance points category 24-10.
    •    Points in the paint favored the Rebels 34-30.

    SOUTH CAROLINA NOTES

    •    South Carolina is now 17-13 on the season, 4-19 all-time in the SEC Tournament and will advance to play Georgia in Game 7 Friday at 6:30 p.m.
    •    This marks the first SEC Tournament win for South Carolina since 2007, when the Gamecocks defeated Auburn, 65-63. 
    •    USC is now 15-4 in games it led at the half.
    •    South Carolina’s bench outscored its Ole Miss counterparts 27-3.
    •    The two teams combined for just nine turnovers.
    •    Sophomore guard Ieasia Walker led USC in scoring with 15 points, eight of those coming at the free throw line. Her 15 points led the team for the 13th time this season.
    •    Walker also tied for the team lead in rebounds with nine, sharing that lead with senior forward Jewel May and junior guard Markeshia Grant.
    •    Grant also scored 13 points, the only other Gamecock in double figures, and with nine rebounds was one away from her first double-double of the season. 
    •    South Carolina dished out 12 assists, raising its season record to 14-5 when recording 10 or more assists.
    •    The Gamecocks are now 14-4 this season when scoring at least 60 points. 
    •    USC has now swept the season series with Ole Miss after winning 63-58 in Oxford on Jan. 16.